Currently reading: How to put an electric car on your driveway for as little as £900
Dutch-Irish company offers electrical conversion kit for existing petrol or diesel cars
Autocar
News
3 mins read
1 December 2020

Many of us will be looking nervously at the clock counting down to 2030, and the government’s proposed ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel cars. How much will an electric car cost? £20,000? £30,000? How about £900?

It will require a little bit of education, and some skills with a spanner and a MIG welder, but in theory you could have an electric-powered BMW, for example, on your driveway for under £1,000. The company behind the scheme is called New Electric, a Dutch-Irish firm whose primary corporate task is converting big corporate vehicle fleets to electric power.

It has an offshoot, though, based in Arklow, in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin. Here, the emphasis is not on big fleets nor corporate largesse, but on converting perfectly good petrol or diesel cars, which might otherwise be scrapped, to electric power. 

“When we started this, back in 2008, it was all bespoke. Every car we did was like starting again,” explains Kevin Sharpe of New Electric. “Now, it’s getting to the point where it will be a bolt-in solution for many vehicles. We want to get to the point where it’s like a giant Meccano kit. That’s where we're aiming, because if we want to do this at scale, we have to make it incredibly simple.”

Sharpe’s mission is to take good quality cars that are, for whatever reason, headed for the scrapper and mate them up with batteries and motors from crashed or written-off electric cars. Instead of having a Nissan Leaf or a Renault Zoe parked out front, you could have a Lexus GS, or even a BMW 850i (only without the ‘i’ bit).

“It comes from marine technology, originally. It’s quite a normal thing to do in a marine environment, people upgrade boats all the time. It’s not unusual to see a hull that’s 100 years old with a new engine, and we wanted to start doing the same thing to cars,” says Sharpe.

New Electric can either convert a car on your behalf, or teach you how to do it. Classes were booming, pre-lockdown, and Sharpe has plans to start them up again as soon as it’s safe to do so.

“What we definitely want to do is scale this up to a massive size,” says Sharpe. “There are so many cars that are being scrapped before their time. We recently bought a Lexus GS450 hybrid. It cost us £500. It's absolutely immaculate. It was basically being written off because it had a battery problem. But you can remove the internal combustion engine.

"You can then apply some magic to it, which allows you to reuse the two motors that are in a hybrid drivetrain, rather than the single one that's normally used, and all of a sudden you have a 300bhp fully electric drivetrain. Then you can even go a stage further. You sell the internal combustion engine, you sell the catalytic converters. You can sell the old battery which can go up for solar storage. So you could actually end up with a car for free and some cash in your pocket that you can then invest in the electric conversion.”

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So, just how cheap can an up-cycled EV be? Well, of course there is the opportunity to spend as much as you like, but Sharpe reckons that you can get a converted car on the road for about half the price of a family hatchback. “You can have a bolt-in kit that would give you 200-miles of solid range, and 250kW rapid CCS charging, for about £6,000. And remember that donor Lexus that we bought cost just £500 on top.”

It doesn’t even have to be that expensive. One of New Electric’s fans, Damien Maguire, recently converted an old BMW 3 Series to electric power for the princely sum of just under £900. To be fair, Maguire is a dab hand at this and was therefore able to do all the work himself, saving any labour costs, but it still goes to show just how potentially cost-effective converting your car to electric driving can be.

Neil Briscoe

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Comments
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Carmad3 2 December 2020

Why does Autocar not report on the research by a british uni that makes diesel cars cleaner than electric?

Electric cars are more polluting than petrol over their first 50,000 miles . That figure was arrived at by the electric car industry them selves!! If you take into account the mining required to get litium out of the ground to make the battery, then add in the damage have to recycle these dangerous batteries at their end of life ( the ingredient are flammable, noxious and explosive)

Anyone who really care about the environment would buy a diesel. The produce far less Co2 than petrol and a team in a british have found our how to split the dangerous NoX2 inot Nitogen and Water. Nitrogen is harmless and we breathe it in every day naturally. We shouldbe pushing car makers to investigate that process and continue to buy diesel

SuffolkProf 3 December 2020

Possibly because that paper (electric cars more poluting for 50,000 miles) is rubbish. It did the usual trick of comparing apples with elephants and ignoring factors. Others, more expert in the field, put the cross-over figure much lower. All easily found with a bit of searching.

Marek Bruzda 1 December 2020
So how to do it? This article is rubbish. If you go onto their website you can see some conversion kits and prices foing into thousands (€2995 is the cheapest item).
Author didn't even bother.
Jeremy 1 December 2020

Hang on. A Lexus hybrid being written off because of a battery problem? But I thought that Toyota/Lexus hybrid electrics were bulletproof?

Sporky McGuffin 1 December 2020
Jeremy wrote:

Hang on. A Lexus hybrid being written off because of a battery problem? But I thought that Toyota/Lexus hybrid electrics were bulletproof?

Based on the note of surprise in your post, this is presumably the first such event you've heard of. Factor that against the number of hybrids sold by both and you should be more than reassured that they are indeed extraordinarily reliable.

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